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Isabelle de Borchgrave brings opulent paper dresses to life at Bellevue Arts Museum
Isabelle de Borchgrave Brown Delphos Dress and Jacket (detail), 2008 (modified in 2012) Fortuny Collection Courtesy of Isabelle de Borchgrave Studio Picture taken during the exhibition A World of Paper, Fortuny by Isabelle de Borchgrave (Atelier Isabelle de Borchgrave, Brussels, 2012 - 2013) Photo: Créations Isabelle de Borchgrave.

BELLEVUE, WA.- Bellevue Arts Museum visitors have the rare opportunity to explore the work of acclaimed Belgian artist Isabelle de Borchgrave in the Museum’s lead exhibit for Fall/Winter 2013, A World of Paper, a World of Fashion: Isabelle de Borchgrave Meets Mariano Fortuny. Over the last 15 years of her 40 year career, de Borchgrave has been celebrated for her masterfully constructed paper fashions. Painting, pleating, crumpling, braiding, and feathering—she manipulates her unconventional choice of medium into exquisite life-size costumes inspired by 300 years of fashion history from Elizabeth I to Coco Chanel.

A World of Paper, a World of Fashion showcases one complete collection of 35 opulent three-dimensional dresses, 20 flat costumes, and numerous accessories, including shoes, jewelry, boxes, and vases. Also featured are preparatory sketches, reproductions of de Borchgrave’s and Fortuny’s studios, and a room-sized oriental tent—all made entirely of paper.

In this collection of work, de Borchgrave honors the genius of Spanish-born, early 20th century couturier, Mariano Fortuny (1871-1949), whose eclectic fashions—especially his renowned ‘Delphos’ dresses, inspired by classical Greece and the Italian Renaissance—were en vogue during the 1910s and 20s. De Borchgrave faithfully evokes the refined grandeur of Fortuny’s world with exacting paper reproductions of luxurious silks and stenciled velvets. In order to achieve the sheen-like effects and transparency of these fabrics, de Borchgrave blends a variety of pictorial techniques: gouache, charcoal, chalk, pastels, oil, and watercolors.

This unique collection provides audiences with insight into the creative minds of two forward-thinking artists, showcasing the value of historical inspiration in contemporary artistic creation. De Borchgrave’s collection will transport its audience to an indulgent and decadent world—A World of Paper, a World of Fashion.

Born in Brussels in 1946, de Borchgrave began her artistic career as a student at the Centre des Arts Décoratifs at the age of 14 before moving on to the Académie Royale des Beaux-Arts, where her days were filled drawing still-lifes and form models. Her works have been featured at museums around the world, including London’s Victoria and Albert Museum, the Museum of Fine Arts (Boston), the Royal Palace (Luxembourg), Museo Fortuny (Venice), the Kushiro Art Museum (Japan), and in 2011 at de Young (San Francisco) to sold-out crowds.

The inspiration for de Borchgrave’s body of work over the last 15 years came to her during a visit to New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art in 1994. Following the visit, she immediately began work on four major collections: Fortuny Collection– to be shown in its entirety at the Bellevue Arts Museum, Papiers à la Mode– 300 years of fashion history, I Medici – inspired by Florentine fashion, and Ballets Russes –a tribute to Serge Diaghilev, Pablo Picasso, and Henri Matisse.

While de Borchgrave is most readily known today for paper and fashion, she has never abandoned the thing that has always guided her in her life: painting. She still exhibits her paintings and her large folded paper works all over the world.

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